Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Sunday, July 11, as the day unfolded. It is no longer being updated. Click here to see all the most recent news about the pandemic, and click here to find additional resources.
Veterans of the mass-vaccination site at Lumen Field held a festive reunion after shutting down the clinic last month. Dozens of volunteers gathered at Judkins Park to reflect on the 102,000 shots they administered over three months – and to try and recognize each other without masks.
A fine-arts student in Oregon won the state’s $1 million COVID-19 vaccine jackpot. States across the country have tried various incentives to boost vaccination rates, and some are questioning the effectiveness of such tactics.
Gov. Jay Inslee named Bill Nye “the Science Guy” the honorary Washingtonian of the Day as the two discussed COVID-19 vaccines, the Delta variant of the virus and more overlooking Mount St. Helens.
We’re updating this page with the latest news about the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the Seattle area, the U.S. and the world. Click here to see previous days’ live updates and all our other coronavirus coverage, and here to see how we track the daily spread across Washington and the world.
‘Mother, When will you come?’: The COVID orphans of India
More than 3,000 Indian children who have been orphaned during the pandemic, according to state governments. They are a heart-rending testament to the devastation wrought on families as the coronavirus has erased hundreds of thousands of lives across the country.
Even with all that has been lost, the orphans’ plight has punctured the public consciousness, an acknowledgment of the profound challenges facing a country already full of vulnerable children.
Indian states have announced compensation of about $7 to $68 per month for each orphan, along with promises of food and free education. Prime Minister Narendra Modi vowed in a tweet to “ensure a life of dignity and opportunity” for the children.
But advocates fear that when the attention inevitably fades, the orphans will be left susceptible to neglect and exploitation.
Read the full story.
Historic Warsaw store, seeking rebirth, hit by pandemic
WARSAW, Poland — The Jablkowski Brothers Department Store was once a Warsaw landmark that revolutionized shopping and brought goods to a modernizing society in the early 20th century. But unlike Harrods in London and other Western counterparts, the business was forced into bankruptcy and seized by Poland’s communist regime that took power after World War II.
When communism fell in 1989, the Jablkowski family heirs began a long legal struggle to regain their properties. They were preparing to launch when the coronavirus pandemic hit, dealing one more blow to a family business that has seen a history of hardship mirroring Poland’s adversities.
“The pandemic hit us in a moment when we were almost ready to go,” Monika Jablkowska, one of the heirs, told The Associated Press.
The pandemic has created new uncertainty because it has accelerated a trend toward online shopping, leaving questions about what kind of in-store retail experiences consumers will embrace in the coming years.
Read the full story.
Iranians, desperate for COVID vaccines, are crossing into Armenia to get them
Thousands of Iranians frustrated with the government’s chaotic vaccine rollout and desperate for protection after enduring wave after wave of the coronavirus are flocking by air and land to neighboring Armenia to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Iran is enduring a fifth wave of the pandemic, with Tehran and 143 cities declared high-risk “red” zones and the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus spreading quickly. Over the past two weeks, Iran’s average daily caseload has risen by 62%, to more than 16,000, according to a New York Times database.
Only about 2% of Iran’s 84 million people have been fully vaccinated, according to the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford. With U.S.- and British-made vaccines banned by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s top leader, the country is waiting for shipments of vaccines made by China and Russia.
Across the border in Armenia, a country of 3 million, there are more vaccine doses than people willing to take them, largely because of widespread conspiracy theories and misinformation. Officials there announced in May that they would provide free vaccines to foreigners without registration. Mobile clinics were set up in the streets to make them easily accessible to tourists and visitors. Iranians don’t need a visa to travel to Armenia, and the drive from the border to the capital, Yerevan, is about seven hours.
Read the full story.
International sailors vaccinated at ports in Longview, Kalama, Vancouver and Portland
Teams of doctors and nurses have been administering COVID-19 vaccines at pharmacies, medical centers and fairground clinics for months, but on the Columbia River, teams also have boarded ships to vaccinate seafarers.
Martin Larson, a Columbia River inspector with the International Transport Workers Federation, said the international crews that receive free vaccinations at the clinics are incredibly grateful.
For most of the pandemic, each country’s rules meant the international ship crews were not allowed to get off in ports and instead had to wait in long quarantines before seeing their families back home.
Larson just arranged an on-ship clinic for a crew from the Philippines in Portland, and said due to vaccine supply, the sailors had not expected to get a vaccine until 2023 back home.
“You can only imagine how grateful these guys are to get it,” he said.
Read the full story.
As post-pandemic travel increases, points and miles credit cards can ease the return
As COVID-19 vaccines make it safer to travel, many people who stayed home during pandemic shutdowns are vacationing again.
Rewards like points and miles earned from a travel credit card can help you get to a long-awaited dream destination, especially as a new cardholder. There’s no shortage of sign-up offers for those with good credit (a FICO score of 690 or higher), but before accepting one, consider whether a travel credit card aligns with your spending.
There are general travel credit cards that allow flexible redemptions and co-branded travel credit cards allow travel redemptions with certain hotel brands, airlines or third-party travel websites.
These types of credit cards may be useful if you travel regularly, have no debt and pay the bill in full each month to avoid interest charges. Otherwise, the high interest rate on these cards chips away at the value of rewards. If you check off these boxes, then you could consider a travel credit card.
Here are some factors to consider:
— Annual fees. Consider travel credit cards with steep annual fees only if the card’s perks can offset the cost. Less frequent travelers may get more value from a no-annual-fee credit card.
— Introductory offers. A sign-up bonus can cover the cost of a vacation, but overspending to meet the requirements to earn one defeats the purpose. Instead, plan to apply for a travel credit card around a high-spending month or season to meet bonus requirements with in-budget purchases.
Read the full story.
Fauci: Too soon to say if Americans may need COVID-19 vaccine booster
The government’s top infectious diseases expert said Sunday “it is entirely conceivable, maybe likely” that Americans will need a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in the coming months, but it is too soon for the government to recommend another shot.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration did the right thing last week by pushing back against drugmaker Pfizer’s assertion about a booster within 12 months. Hours after Pfizer’s statement Thursday that it would seek authorization for a third dose, the two agencies said they did not view the booster shots as necessary “at this time.”
Fauci said clinical studies and laboratory data have yet to fully bear out the need for a booster to the current two-shot Pfizer and Moderna vaccines or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson regimen.
“Right now, given the data and the information we have, we do not need to give people a third shot,” he said. “That doesn’t mean we stop there. … There are studies being done now ongoing as we speak about looking at the feasibility about if and when we should be boosting people.”
He said it was quite possible in the coming months “as data evolves” that the government may urge a booster based on such factors as age and underlying medical conditions. “Certainly it is entirely conceivable, maybe likely at some time, we will need a boost,” Fauci said.
Currently only about 48% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated. Some parts of the country have far lower immunization rates, and in those places the delta variant is surging. Last week, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director, said that’s leading to “two truths” — highly immunized swaths of America are getting back to normal while hospitalizations are rising in other places.
Read the full story.
Bonus pay for essential workers varied widely across states
For putting their health on the line during the coronavirus pandemic, prison guards in Missouri got an extra $250 per paycheck. Teachers in Georgia received $1,000 bonuses. And in Vermont, nurses, janitors, retail workers and many others got as much as $2,000.
Over the past year, about one-third of U.S. states have used federal COVID-19 relief aid to reward workers considered essential who dutifully reported to jobs during the pandemic. But who qualified for those bonuses — and how much they received — varied widely, according to an Associated Press review. While some were paid thousands of dollars, others with similar jobs elsewhere received nothing.
As society reopens, momentum to provide pandemic hazard pay appears to be fading — even though the federal government has broadened the ability of state and local governments to provide retroactive pay under a $350 billion aid package enacted by President Joe Biden in March.
So far, only a few states have committed to paying workers extra with money from the American Rescue Plan.
Florida is giving $1,000 bonuses to teachers and first-responders. Minnesota plans to distribute $250 million in bonuses to essential workers, though a special panel won’t determine who qualifies until later this year.
This past week, Hawaii Gov. David Ige vetoed a budget provision to pay teachers $2,200 bonuses. The Democratic governor said lawmakers didn’t have the authority to tell the state Department of Education how to use the federal money.
Some states remain reluctant to enact bonus programs.
An Oregon proposal to use federal pandemic aid to provide bonuses of up to $2,000 for essential workers failed to make it into the budget that took effect July 1, despite a union lobbying campaign that included thousands of emails and hundreds of phone calls to lawmakers. The proposal would have covered workers in numerous fields, including education, health care, public safety and transportation.
“I don’t think anyone was opposed to it,” said Melissa Unger, executive director of Service Employees International Union Local 503. But “no one prioritized it.”
Read the full story.
One solution to pandemic burnout: Iceland tests a four-day work week
Several large-scale trials of a four-day workweek in Iceland were an “overwhelming success,” with many workers shifting to shorter hours without affecting their productivity, and in some cases improving it, in what researchers called “groundbreaking evidence for the efficacy of working time reduction.”
Some of the trials’ key findings showed that a shorter week translated into increased well-being of employees among a range of indicators, from stress and burnout to health and work-life balance. These issues have become more pressing as reports of burnout among employees around the world have risen after more than a year of pandemic-related stress and deteriorated mental health.
The trials were conducted between 2015 and 2019, initiated by the Reykjavik City Council and the Icelandic national government in response to demands from trade unions and civil society organizations for shorter workweeks.
The trials involved 2,500 workers, more than 1% of the nation’s working population, who moved from working 40 hours a week to a 35- or 36-hour week, without a reduction in pay.
The results were gathered from a wide range of workplaces — including offices, preschools, social service providers and hospitals — leading researchers to conclude that the “transformative positive effects” of a shorter working week are beneficial for employees and businesses alike.
“This study shows that the world’s largest ever trial of a shorter working week in the public sector was by all measures an overwhelming success,” Will Stronge, director of research at the think tank Autonomy, said in a statement to The Washington Post, adding that the program serves as a “landmark pilot” that provides a “precedent for other public authorities.”
Read the full story.
Myanmar caught off guard as COVID-19 surges, oxygen dwindles
Soe Win stood in line at a plant to buy oxygen for his grandmother, who is struggling with COVID-19 symptoms.
“I have been waiting since 5 in the morning until 12 noon but I’m still in line. Oxygen is scarcer than money,” said the resident of Myanmar’s biggest city, Yangon.
Consumed by a bitter and violent political struggle since the military seized power in February, Myanmar has been slow to wake up to a devastating surge in cases since mid-May. It has left many of the sick like Soe Win’s grandmother to suffer at home if they cannot find a bed at an army hospital, or prefer not to trust their care to the widely disliked government.
Under Aung San Suu Kyi, the civilian leader ousted by the military, Myanmar had weathered its second coronavirus surge beginning in August last year by severely restricting travel, sealing off Yangon, and curbing election campaigning in virus hot spots where lockdowns were imposed.
Suu Kyi appeared frequently on television with stern but empathetic entreaties to the public on how to deal with the situation. Vaccine supplies were secured from India and China. Her ouster came less than a week after the first jabs were given to health workers.
Suu Kyi’s removal by the military sparked widespread protests, and medical workers spearheaded a popular civil disobedience movement that called on professionals and civil servants not to cooperate with the military-installed government.
Military hospitals continued operating but were shunned by many, while doctors and nurses who boycotted the state system ran makeshift clinics, for which they faced arrest. The pace of vaccinations slowed to a crawl, threatening an explosion in infections.
Photos and news stories early last week of people lining up to buy oxygen in the city of Kalay in the northwestern Sagaing region brought home the reality that Myanmar’s health care, already one of the world’s weakest, was on its knees.
Read the full story here.
FEMA can help with COVID-19 funeral costs. Here’s what to know
Thousands of people who lost members of their family to COVID-19 have received federal financial help for funeral costs, and the U.S. government has just changed the rules to help more people qualify.
As part of the government’s pandemic relief effort, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is paying up to $9,000 per death for COVID-related funeral expenses.
FEMA began accepting applications in April and says it has awarded more than $447 million in funeral assistance to nearly 67,000 applicants. More than 600,000 Americans have died in the pandemic.
This month, the agency changed its policy to better cover deaths that occurred early in the pandemic.
Initially, all applicants had to submit a death certificate that specifically listed COVID-19 as the cause of death. But when doctors were first learning about COVID-19 and testing was limited, the coronavirus wasn’t always cited on the certificate. FEMA required families seeking funeral aid to obtain amended death certificates, which can be difficult and time-consuming.
Now, applicants seeking help with funeral costs for COVID-related deaths that occurred from Jan. 20, 2020, to May 16, 2020, may submit a death certificate that does not specifically cite COVID-19. But they must also submit a signed letter from the certificate’s “certifying official, medical examiner or coroner” attributing the death to the virus.
The change was made after consultation with officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “and other health experts,” FEMA said in a statement Tuesday.
Read the full story here.
South Africa ramps up vaccine drive, too late for this surge
JOHANNESBURG — Some in wheelchairs, others on canes, hundreds of South Africans waited recently on the ramps of an open-air Johannesburg parking garage to get their COVID-19 vaccine shots. Despite the masks, social distancing and blustery weather of the Southern Hemisphere winter, a celebratory atmosphere took hold.
“What a relief!” said Vincent Damon, a 63-year-old electrical technician, after getting his second dose. “In the last four days, I’ve lost four friends. All of them under 60. This pandemic has gotten worse. It’s frightening.”
New infections in South Africa rose to record levels in recent days, part of a rapid rise across the continent, and experts say the surge here hasn’t yet peaked. To fight the new wave, South Africa reimposed several restrictions, including shutting restaurants and bars and limiting alcohol sales — and its vaccination drive is finding its feet after several stumbles.
But even as the campaign gathers pace, experts say it’s too late to reduce the deadly impact of the current spike. Instead, South Africa is now rushing to vaccinate enough of its 60 million people to blunt the impact of the next inevitable surge.
King County’s courts are ‘barely keeping up’ with a massive backlog of cases due to the COVID-19 pandemic
More than 250 murder cases await trial in King County Superior Court. Some 400 sexual assault victims have already been waiting nearly two years to testify against the people accused of hurting them.
Armed robberies, aggravated assaults, shootings and other violent crimes continue to pile up as the county’s legal system attempts to dig out from a historic backlog of felony cases, while also straining to address family law and civil law matters.
Meanwhile in King County District Court, which is responsible for hearing misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor cases in several King County cities, more than 9,000 traffic infractions await hearings, many of which could be dismissed as cases run up against statutes of limitations. Small-claims lawsuits aren’t being heard and there are scarce funds for mediation.
“We’re barely keeping up with our criminal work,” the District Court’s presiding judge, Susan Mahoney, said in a Tuesday meeting of the Metropolitan King County Council’s Budget and Financial Management Committee.
Defendants, victims and civil litigants have faced delays or waited in limbo over the past 16 months as the COVID-19 pandemic raged and court operations were curtailed to keep employees and members of the public safe. Now, the county’s courts, clerks, prosecutors and public defenders are all vying for a share of the last remaining federal pandemic relief money, seeking resources to keep cases moving.
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